By Stephen Cauchi
13 January 2022
A growing number of Anglican churches have cancelled face-to-face services as a precaution against COVID-19 as the virus spreads throughout Victoria.
It comes as several clergy contract the disease, among hundreds of thousands of active Victorian cases.
The Reverend Wayne Walters of St Michael and All Angels Beaumaris said his church had their first Zoom service on 9 January. He planned to return to in person services on 30 January.
It came as several parishioners and their family members contracted COVID-19.
Mr Walters said the church had small congregation of about 25, many of whom were over 70.
Mr Walters said he expected the move to Zoom to be temporary measure, with the church meeting again in person soon. But he said he also expected the unexpected.
Diocese COVID-19 response coordinator Bishop Paul Barker said about seven churches in his episcopate had moved to online services for the present, including those in Glen Iris, Warrandyte, Beaumaris, Oakleigh, and Mt Waverley.
“For some of them it’s just too many people are afraid of coming,” Bishop Barker saod
“For some it’s too many people are in isolation in the parish, or have COVID in the parish, and occasionally it’s the clergy with COVID.
“I know 15 clergy who have had COVID or have it now.”
Bishop Barker said the move to Zoom was sensible, but every church was different.
Churches with large buildings and small congregations were not as much of a risk as a more crowded church, he said. While in others the vicar or congregation might be more medically vulnerable.
Currently, said Bishop Barker, there no limits on church attendance, or any vaccination requirement. However, any refreshments are only for the vaccinated, and the two square metre rule applied.
He said churches that were closing hoped to reopen in several weeks.
Bishop Barker described COVID as “rampant” in the community.
Victoria has reported new case numbers in the tens of thousands each day since early January.
Bishop Barker said experts were saying that the current wave of COVD should peak fairly soon. “maybe by mid-to-late February we might be relatively normal, but who knows.”